Akka from Kebnekaise


The big tame goosey-gander that had followed them up in the air, felt very proud of being permitted to travel back and forth over the South country with the wild geese, and crack jokes with the tame birds. But in spite of his keen delight, he began to tire as the afternoon wore on. He tried to take deeper breaths and quicker wing-strokes, but even so he remained several goose-lengths behind the others.

When the wild geese who flew last, noticed that the tame one couldn’t keep up with them, they began to call to the goose who rode in the centre of the angle and led the procession: “Akka from Kebnekaise! Akka from Kebnekaise!”

“What do you want of me?” asked the leader.

“The white one will be left behind; the white one will be left behind.”

“Tell him it’s easier to fly fast than slow!” called the leader, and raced on as before.

The goosey-gander certainly tried to follow the advice, and increase his speed; but then he became so exhausted that he sank away down to the drooping willows that bordered the fields and meadows.

“Akka, Akka, Akka from Kebnekaise!” cried those who flew last and saw what a hard time he was having.

“What do you want now?” asked the leader⁠—and she sounded awfully angry.

“The white one sinks to the earth; the white one sinks to the earth.”

“Tell him it’s easier to fly high than low!” shouted the leader, and she didn’t slow up the least little bit, but raced on as before.

The goosey-gander tried also to follow this advice; but when he wanted to raise himself, he became so winded that he almost burst his breast.

“Akka, Akka!” again cried those who flew last.

“Can’t you let me fly in peace?” asked the leader, and she sounded even madder than before.

“The white one is ready to collapse.”

“Tell him that he who has not the strength to fly with the flock, can go back home!” cried the leader. She certainly had no idea of decreasing her speed⁠—but raced on as before.

“Oh! is that the way the wind blows,” thought the goosey-gander. He understood at once that the wild geese had never intended to take him along up to Lapland. They had only lured him away from home in sport.

He felt thoroughly exasperated. To think that his strength should fail him now, so he wouldn’t be able to show these tramps that even a tame goose was good for something! But the most provoking thing of all was that he had fallen in with Akka from Kebnekaise. Tame goose that he was, he had heard about a leader goose, named Akka, who was more than a hundred years old. She had such a big name that the best wild geese in the world followed her. But no one had such a contempt for tame geese as Akka and her flock, and gladly would he have shown them that he was their equal.

He flew slowly behind the rest, while he deliberated whether he should turn back or continue. Finally, the little creature that he carried on his back said: “Dear Morten Goosey-gander,1 you know well enough that it is simply impossible for you, who have never flown, to go with the wild geese all the way up to Lapland. Won’t you turn back before you kill yourself?”

But the farmer’s lad was about the worst thing the goosey-gander knew anything about, and as soon as it dawned on him that this puny creature actually believed that he couldn’t make the trip, he decided to stick it out. “If you say another word about this, I’ll drop you into the first ditch we ride over!” said he, and at the same time his fury gave him so much strength that he began to fly almost as well as any of the others.

It isn’t likely that he could have kept this pace up very long, neither was it necessary; for, just then, the sun sank quickly; and at sunset the geese flew down, and before the boy and the goosey-gander knew what had happened, they stood on the shores of Vomb Lake.

“They probably intend that we shall spend the night here,” thought the boy, and jumped down from the goose’s back.

He stood on a narrow beach by a fair-sized lake. It was ugly to look upon, because it was almost entirely covered with an ice-crust that was blackened and uneven and full of cracks and holes⁠—as spring ice generally is.

The ice was already breaking up. It was loose and floating and had a broad belt of dark, shiny water all around it; but there was still enough of it left to spread chill and winter terror over the place.

On the other side of the lake there appeared to be an open and light country, but where the geese had lighted there was a thick pine-growth. It looked as if the forest of firs and pines had the power to bind the winter to itself. Everywhere else the ground was bare; but beneath the sharp pine-branches lay snow that had been melting and freezing, melting and freezing, until it was hard as ice.

The boy thought he had struck an arctic wilderness, and he was so miserable that he wanted to scream. He was hungry too. He hadn’t eaten a bite the whole day. But where should he find any food? Nothing eatable grew on either ground or tree in the month of March.

Yes, where was he to find food, and who would give him shelter, and who would fix his bed, and who would protect him from the wild beasts?

For now the sun was away and frost came from the lake, and darkness sank down from heaven, and terror stole forward on the twilight’s trail, and in the forest it began to patter and rustle.

Now the good humour which the boy had felt when he was up in the air, was gone, and in his misery he looked around for his travelling companions. He had no one but them to cling to now.

Then he saw that the goosey-gander was having even a worse time of it than he. He was lying prostrate on the spot where he had alighted; and it looked as if he were ready to die. His neck lay flat against the ground, his eyes were closed, and his breathing sounded like a feeble hissing.

“Dear Morten Goosey-Gander,” said the boy, “try to get a swallow of water! It isn’t two steps to the lake.”

But the goosey-gander didn’t stir.

The boy had certainly been cruel to all animals, and to the goosey-gander in times gone by; but now he felt that the goosey-gander was the only comfort he had left, and he was dreadfully afraid of losing him.

At once the boy began to push and drag him, to get him into the water, but the goosey-gander was big and heavy, and it was mighty hard work for the boy; but at last he succeeded.

The goosey-gander got in head first. For an instant he lay motionless in the slime, but soon he poked up his head, shook the water from his eyes and sniffed. Then he swam, proudly, between reeds and seaweed.

The wild geese were in the lake before him. They had not looked around for either the goosey-gander or for his rider, but had made straight for the water. They had bathed and primped, and now they lay and gulped half-rotten pondweed and water-clover.

The white goosey-gander had the good fortune to spy a perch. He grabbed it quickly, swam ashore with it, and laid it down in front of the boy. “Here’s a thank you for helping me into the water,” said he.

It was the first time the boy had heard a friendly word that day. He was so happy that he wanted to throw his arms around the goosey-gander’s neck, but he refrained; and he was also thankful for the gift. At first he must have thought that it would be impossible to eat raw fish, and then he had a notion to try it.

He felt to see if he still had his sheath-knife with him; and, sure enough, there it hung⁠—on the back button of his trousers, although it was so diminished that it was hardly as long as a match. Well, at any rate, it served to scale and cleanse fish with; and it wasn’t long before the perch was eaten.

When the boy had satisfied his hunger, he felt a little ashamed because he had been able to eat a raw thing. “It’s evident that I’m not a human being any longer, but a real elf,” thought he.

While the boy ate, the goosey-gander stood silently beside him. But when he had swallowed the last bite, he said in a low voice: “It’s a fact that we have run across a stuck-up goose folk who despise all tame birds.”

“Yes, I’ve observed that,” said the boy.

“What a triumph it would be for me if I could follow them clear up to Lapland, and show them that even a tame goose can do things!”

“Y-e-e-s,” said the boy, and drawled it out because he didn’t believe the goosey-gander could ever do it; yet he didn’t wish to contradict him. “But I don’t think I can get along all alone on such a journey,” said the goosey-gander. “I’d like to ask if you couldn’t come along and help me?” The boy, of course, hadn’t expected anything but to return to his home as soon as possible, and he was so surprised that he hardly knew what he should reply. “I thought that we were enemies, you and I,” said he. But this the goosey-gander seemed to have forgotten entirely. He only remembered that the boy had but just saved his life.

“I suppose I really ought to go home to father and mother,” said the boy. “Oh! I’ll get you back to them some time in the fall,” said the goosey-gander. “I shall not leave you until I put you down on your own doorstep.”

The boy thought it might be just as well for him if he escaped showing himself before his parents for a while. He was not disinclined to favour the scheme, and was just on the point of saying that he agreed to it⁠—when they heard a loud rumbling behind them. It was the wild geese who had come up from the lake⁠—all at one time⁠—and stood shaking the water from their backs. After that they arranged themselves in a long row⁠—with the leader-goose in the centre⁠—and came toward them.

As the white goosey-gander sized up the wild geese, he felt ill at ease. He had expected that they should be more like tame geese, and that he should feel a closer kinship with them. They were much smaller than he, and none of them were white. They were all gray with a sprinkling of brown. He was almost afraid of their eyes. They were yellow, and shone as if a fire had been kindled back of them. The goosey-gander had always been taught that it was most fitting to move slowly and with a rolling motion, but these creatures did not walk⁠—they half ran. He grew most alarmed, however, when he looked at their feet. These were large, and the soles were torn and ragged-looking. It was evident that the wild geese never questioned what they tramped upon. They took no bypaths. They were very neat and well cared for in other respects, but one could see by their feet that they were poor wilderness-folk.

The goosey-gander only had time to whisper to the boy: “Speak up quickly for yourself, but don’t tell them who you are!”⁠—before the geese were upon them.

When the wild geese had stopped in front of them, they curtsied with their necks many times, and the goosey-gander did likewise many more times. As soon as the ceremonies were over, the leader-goose said: “Now I presume we shall hear what kind of creatures you are.”

“There isn’t much to tell about me,” said the goosey-gander. “I was born in Skanor last spring. In the fall I was sold to Holger Nilsson of West Vemminghög, and there I have lived ever since.”

“You don’t seem to have any pedigree to boast of,” said the leader-goose. “What is it, then, that makes you so high-minded that you wish to associate with wild geese?”

“It may be because I want to show you wild geese that we tame ones may also be good for something,” said the goosey-gander.

“Yes, it would be well if you could show us that,” said the leader-goose. “We have already observed how much you know about flying; but you are more skilled, perhaps, in other sports. Possibly you are strong in a swimming match?”

“No, I can’t boast that I am,” said the goosey-gander. It seemed to him that the leader-goose had already made up her mind to send him home, so he didn’t much care how he answered. “I never swam any farther than across a marl-ditch,” he continued.

“Then I presume you’re a crack sprinter,” said the goose.

“I have never seen a tame goose run, nor have I ever done it myself,” said the goosey-gander; and he made things appear much worse than they really were.

The big white one was sure now that the leader-goose would say that under no circumstances could they take him along. He was very much astonished when she said: “You answer questions courageously; and he who has courage can become a good travelling companion, even if he is ignorant in the beginning. What do you say to stopping with us for a couple of days, until we can see what you are good for?”

“That suits me!” said the goosey-gander⁠—and he was thoroughly happy.

Thereupon the leader-goose pointed with her bill and said: “But who is that you have with you? I’ve never seen anything like him before.”

“That’s my comrade,” said the goosey-gander. “He’s been a goose-tender all his life. He’ll be useful all right to take with us on the trip.”

“Yes, he may be all right for a tame goose,” answered the wild one. “What do you call him?”

“He has several names,” said the goosey-gander⁠—hesitantly, not knowing what he should hit upon in a hurry, for he didn’t want to reveal the fact that the boy had a human name. “Oh! his name is Thumbietot,” he said at last.

“Does he belong to the elf family?” asked the leader-goose.

“At what time do you wild geese usually retire?” said the goosey-gander quickly⁠—trying to evade that last question. “My eyes close of their own accord about this time.”

One could easily see that the goose who talked with the gander was very old. Her entire feather outfit was ice-gray, without any dark streaks. The head was larger, the legs coarser, and the feet were more worn than any of the others. The feathers were stiff; the shoulders knotty; the neck thin. All this was due to age. It was only upon the eyes that time had had no effect. They shone brighter⁠—as if they were younger⁠—than any of the others!

She turned, very haughtily, toward the goosey-gander. “Understand, Mr. Tame-goose, that I am Akka from Kebnekaise! And that the goose who flies nearest me⁠—to the right⁠—is Iksi from Vassijaure, and the one to the left, is Kaksi from Nuolja! Understand, also, that the second right-hand goose is Kolmi from Sarjektjakko, and the second, left, is Neljä from Svappavaara; and behind them fly Viisi from Oviksfjällen and Kuusi from Sjangeli! And know that these, as well as the six goslings who fly last⁠—three to the right, and three to the left⁠—are all high mountain geese of the finest breed! You must not take us for landlubbers who strike up a chance acquaintance with any and everyone! And you must not think that we permit anyone to share our quarters, that will not tell us who his ancestors were.”

When Akka, the leader-goose, talked in this way, the boy stepped briskly forward. It had distressed him that the goosey-gander, who had spoken up so glibly for himself, should give such evasive answers when it concerned him. “I don’t care to make a secret of who I am,” said he. “My name is Nils Holgersson. I’m a farmer’s son, and, until today, I have been a human being; but this morning⁠—” He got no further. As soon as he had said that he was human the leader-goose staggered three steps backward, and the rest of them even farther back. They all extended their necks and hissed angrily at him.

“I have suspected this ever since I first saw you here on these shores,” said Akka; “and now you can clear out of here at once. We tolerate no human beings among us.”

“It isn’t possible,” said the goosey-gander, meditatively, “that you wild geese can be afraid of anyone who is so tiny! By tomorrow, of course, he’ll turn back home. You can surely let him stay with us overnight. None of us can afford to let such a poor little creature wander off by himself in the night⁠—among weasels and foxes!”

The wild goose came nearer. But it was evident that it was hard for her to master her fear. “I have been taught to fear everything in human shape⁠—be it big or little,” said she. “But if you will answer for this one, and swear that he will not harm us, he can stay with us tonight. But I don’t believe our night quarters are suitable either for him or you, for we intend to roost on the broken ice out here.”

She thought, of course, that the goosey-gander would be doubtful when he heard this, but he never let on. “She is pretty wise who knows how to choose such a safe bed,” said he.

“You will be answerable for his return to his own tomorrow.”

“Then I, too, will have to leave you,” said the goosey-gander. “I have sworn that I would not forsake him.”

“You are free to fly whither you will,” said the leader-goose.

With this, she raised her wings and flew out over the ice and one after another the wild geese followed her.

The boy was very sad to think that his trip to Lapland would not come off, and, in the bargain, he was afraid of the chilly night quarters. “It will be worse and worse,” said he. “In the first place, we’ll freeze to death on the ice.”

But the gander was in a good humour. “There’s no danger,” said he. “Only make haste, I beg of you, and gather together as much grass and litter as you can well carry.”

When the boy had his arms full of dried grass, the goosey-gander grabbed him by the shirt-band, lifted him, and flew out on the ice, where the wild geese were already fast asleep, with their bills tucked under their wings.

“Now spread out the grass on the ice, so there’ll be something to stand on, to keep me from freezing fast. You help me and I’ll help you,” said the goosey-gander.

This the boy did. And when he had finished, the goosey-gander picked him up, once again, by the shirt-band, and tucked him under his wing. “I think you’ll lie snug and warm there,” said the goosey-gander as he covered him with his wing.

The boy was so imbedded in down that he couldn’t answer, and he was nice and comfy. Oh, but he was tired!⁠—And in less than two winks he was fast asleep.


It is a fact that ice is always treacherous and not to be trusted. In the middle of the night the loosened ice-cake on Vomb Lake moved about, until one corner of it touched the shore. Now it happened that Mr. Smirre Fox,2 who lived at this time in Övid Cloister Park⁠—on the east side of the lake⁠—caught a glimpse of that one corner, while he was out on his night chase. Smirre had seen the wild geese early in the evening, and hadn’t dared to hope that he might get at one of them, but now he walked right out on the ice.

When Smirre was very near to the geese, his claws scraped the ice, and the geese awoke, flapped their wings, and prepared for flight. But Smirre was too quick for them. He darted forward as though he’d been shot; grabbed a goose by the wing, and ran toward land again.

But this night the wild geese were not alone on the ice, for they had a human being among them⁠—little as he was. The boy had awakened when the goosey-gander spread his wings. He had tumbled down on the ice and was sitting there, dazed. He hadn’t grasped the whys and wherefores of all this confusion, until he caught sight of a little long-legged dog who ran over the ice with a goose in his mouth.

In a minute the boy was after that dog, to try and take the goose away from him. He must have heard the goosey-gander call to him: “Have a care, Thumbietot! Have a care!” But the boy thought that such a little runt of a dog was nothing to be afraid of and he rushed ahead.

The wild goose that Smirre Fox tugged after him, heard the clatter as the boy’s wooden shoes beat against the ice, and she could hardly believe her ears. “Does that infant think he can take me away from the fox?” she wondered. And in spite of her misery, she began to cackle right merrily, deep down in her windpipe. It was almost as if she had laughed.

“The first thing he knows, he’ll fall through a crack in the ice,” thought she.

But dark as the night was, the boy saw distinctly all the cracks and holes there were, and took daring leaps over them. This was because he had the elf’s good eyesight now, and could see in the dark. He saw both lake and shore just as clearly as if it had been daylight.

Smirre Fox left the ice where it touched the shore. And just as he was working his way up to the land-edge, the boy shouted: “Drop that goose, you sneak!”

Smirre didn’t know who was calling to him, and wasted no time in looking around, but increased his pace. The fox made straight for the forest and the boy followed him, with never a thought of the danger he was running. All he thought about was the contemptuous way in which he had been received by the wild geese; and he made up his mind to let them see that a human being was something higher than all else created.

He shouted, again and again, to that dog, to make him drop his game. “What kind of a dog are you, who can steal a whole goose and not feel ashamed of yourself? Drop her at once! or you’ll see what a beating you’ll get. Drop her, I say, or I’ll tell your master how you behave!”

When Smirre Fox saw that he had been mistaken for a scary dog, he was so amused that he came near dropping the goose. Smirre was a great plunderer who wasn’t satisfied with only hunting rats and pigeons in the fields, but he also ventured into the farmyards to steal chickens and geese. He knew that he was feared throughout the district; and anything as idiotic as this he had not heard since he was a baby.

The boy ran so fast that the thick beech-trees appeared to be running past him⁠—backward, but he caught up with Smirre. Finally, he was so close to him that he got a hold on his tail. “Now I’ll take the goose from you anyway,” cried he, and held on as hard as ever he could, but he hadn’t strength enough to stop Smirre. The fox dragged him along until the dry foliage whirled around him.

But now it began to dawn on Smirre how harmless the thing was that pursued him. He stopped short, put the goose on the ground, and stood on her with his forepaws, so she couldn’t fly away. He was just about to bite off her neck⁠—but then he couldn’t resist the desire to tease the boy a little. “Hurry off and complain to the master, for now I’m going to bite the goose to death!” said he.

Certainly the one who was surprised when he saw what a pointed nose, and heard what a hoarse and angry voice that dog which he was pursuing had⁠—was the boy! But now he was so enraged because the fox had made fun of him, that he never thought of being frightened. He took a firmer hold on the tail, braced himself against a beech trunk; and just as the fox opened his jaws over the goose’s throat, he pulled as hard as he could. Smirre was so astonished that he let himself be pulled backward a couple of steps⁠—and the wild goose got away. She fluttered upward feebly and heavily. One wing was so badly wounded that she could barely use it. In addition to this, she could not see in the night darkness of the forest but was as helpless as the blind. Therefore she could in no way help the boy; so she groped her way through the branches and flew down to the lake again.

Then Smirre made a dash for the boy. “If I don’t get the one, I shall certainly have the other,” said he; and you could tell by his voice how mad he was. “Oh, don’t you believe it!” said the boy, who was in the best of spirits because he had saved the goose. He held fast by the foxtail, and swung with it⁠—to one side⁠—when the fox tried to catch him.

There was such a dance in that forest that the dry beech-leaves fairly flew! Smirre swung round and round, but the tail swung too; while the boy kept a tight grip on it, so the fox could not grab him.

The boy was so gay after his success that in the beginning, he laughed and made fun of the fox. But Smirre was persevering⁠—as old hunters generally are⁠—and the boy began to fear that he should be captured in the end. Then he caught sight of a little, young beech-tree that had shot up as slender as a rod, that it might soon reach the free air above the canopy of branches which the old beeches spread above it.

Quick as a flash, he let go of the foxtail and climbed the beech tree. Smirre Fox was so excited that he continued to dance around after his tail.

“Don’t bother with the dance any longer!” said the boy.

But Smirre couldn’t endure the humiliation of his failure to get the better of such a little tot, so he lay down under the tree, that he might keep a close watch on him.

The boy didn’t have any too good a time of it where he sat, astride a frail branch. The young beech did not, as yet, reach the high branch-canopy, so the boy couldn’t get over to another tree, and he didn’t dare to come down again. He was so cold and numb that he almost lost his hold around the branch; and he was dreadfully sleepy; but he didn’t dare fall asleep for fear of tumbling down.

My! but it was dismal to sit in that way the whole night through, out in the forest! He never before understood the real meaning of “night.” It was just as if the whole world had become petrified, and never could come to life again.

Then it commenced to dawn. The boy was glad that everything began to look like itself once more; although the chill was even sharper than it had been during the night.

Finally, when the sun got up, it wasn’t yellow but red. The boy thought it looked as though it were angry and he wondered what it was angry about. Perhaps it was because the night had made it so cold and gloomy on Earth, while the sun was away.

The sunbeams came down in great clusters, to see what the night had been up to. It could be seen how everything blushed⁠—as if they all had guilty consciences. The clouds in the skies; the satiny beech-limbs; the little intertwined branches of the forest-canopy; the hoarfrost that covered the foliage on the ground⁠—everything grew flushed and red. More and more sunbeams came bursting through space, and soon the night’s terrors were driven away, and such a marvellous lot of living things came forward. The black woodpecker, with the red neck, began to hammer with its bill on the branch. The squirrel glided from his nest with a nut, and sat down on a branch and began to shell it. The starling came flying with a worm, and the bullfinch sang in the treetop.

Then the boy understood that the sun had said to all these tiny creatures: “Wake up now, and come out of your nests! I’m here! Now you need be afraid of nothing.”

The wild-goose call was heard from the lake, as they were preparing for flight; and soon all fourteen geese came flying through the forest. The boy tried to call to them, but they flew so high that his voice couldn’t reach them. They probably believed the fox had eaten him up; and they didn’t trouble themselves to look for him.

The boy came near crying with regret; but the sun stood up there⁠—orange-coloured and happy⁠—and put courage into the whole world. “It isn’t worth while, Nils Holgersson, for you to be troubled about anything, as long as I’m here,” said the sun.



Everything remained unchanged in the forest⁠—about as long as it takes a goose to eat her breakfast. But just as the morning was verging on forenoon, a goose came flying, all by herself, under the thick tree-canopy. She groped her way hesitatingly, between the stems and branches, and flew very slowly. As soon as Smirre Fox saw her, he left his place under the beech tree, and sneaked up toward her. The wild goose didn’t avoid the fox, but flew very close to him. Smirre made a high jump for her but he missed her; and the goose went on her way down to the lake.

It was not long before another goose came flying. She took the same route as the first one; and flew still lower and slower. She, too, flew close to Smirre Fox, and he made such a high spring for her, that his ears brushed her feet. But she, too, got away from him unhurt, and went her way toward the lake, silent as a shadow.

A little while passed and then there came another wild goose. She flew still slower and lower; and it seemed even more difficult for her to find her way between the beech-branches. Smirre made a powerful spring! He was within a hair’s breadth of catching her; but that goose also managed to save herself.

Just after she had disappeared, came a fourth. She flew so slowly, and so badly, that Smirre Fox thought he could catch her without much effort, but he was afraid of failure now, and concluded to let her fly past⁠—unmolested. She took the same direction the others had taken; and just as she was come right above Smirre, she sank down so far that he was tempted to jump for her. He jumped so high that he touched her with his tail. But she flung herself quickly to one side and saved her life.

Before Smirre got through panting, three more geese came flying in a row. They flew just like the rest, and Smirre made high springs for them all, but he did not succeed in catching any one of them.

After that came five geese; but these flew better than the others. And although it seemed as if they wanted to lure Smirre to jump, he withstood the temptation. After quite a long time came one single goose. It was the thirteenth. This one was so old that she was gray all over, without a dark speck anywhere on her body. She didn’t appear to use one wing very well, but flew so wretchedly and crookedly, that she almost touched the ground. Smirre not only made a high leap for her, but he pursued her, running and jumping all the way down to the lake. But not even this time did he get anything for his trouble.

When the fourteenth goose came along, it looked very pretty because it was white. And as its great wings swayed, it glistened like a light, in the dark forest. When Smirre Fox saw this one, he mustered all his resources and jumped halfway up to the tree-canopy. But the white one flew by unhurt like the rest.

Now it was quiet for a moment under the beeches. It looked as if the whole wild-goose-flock had travelled past.

Suddenly Smirre remembered his prisoner and raised his eyes toward the young beech-tree. And just as he might have expected⁠—the boy had disappeared.

But Smirre didn’t have much time to think about him; for now the first goose came back again from the lake and flew slowly under the canopy. In spite of all his ill luck, Smirre was glad that she came back, and darted after her with a high leap. But he had been in too much of a hurry, and hadn’t taken the time to calculate the distance, and he landed at one side of the goose. Then there came still another goose; then a third; a fourth; a fifth; and so on, until the angle closed in with the old ice-gray one, and the big white one. They all flew low and slow. Just as they swayed in the vicinity of Smirre Fox, they sank down⁠—kind of inviting-like⁠—for him to take them. Smirre ran after them and made leaps a couple of fathoms high⁠—but he couldn’t manage to get hold of a single one of them.

It was the most awful day that Smirre Fox had ever experienced. The wild geese kept on travelling over his head. They came and went⁠—came and went. Great splendid geese who had eaten themselves fat on the German heaths and grain fields, swayed all day through the woods, and so close to him that he touched them many times; yet he was not permitted to appease his hunger with a single one of them.

The winter was hardly gone yet, and Smirre recalled nights and days when he had been forced to tramp around in idleness, with not so much as a hare to hunt, when the rats hid themselves under the frozen earth; and when the chickens were all shut up. But all the winter’s hunger had not been as hard to endure as this day’s miscalculations.

Smirre was no young fox. He had had the dogs after him many a time, and had heard the bullets whizz around his ears. He had lain in hiding, down in the lair, while the dachshunds crept into the crevices and all but found him. But all the anguish that Smirre Fox had been forced to suffer under this hot chase, was not to be compared with what he suffered every time that he missed one of the wild geese.

In the morning, when the play began, Smirre Fox had looked so stunning that the geese were amazed when they saw him. Smirre loved display. His coat was a brilliant red; his breast white; his nose black; and his tail was as bushy as a plume. But when the evening of this day was come, Smirre’s coat hung in loose folds. He was bathed in sweat; his eyes were without lustre; his tongue hung far out from his gaping jaws; and froth oozed from his mouth.

In the afternoon Smirre was so exhausted that he grew delirious. He saw nothing before his eyes but flying geese. He made leaps for sunspots which he saw on the ground; and for a poor little butterfly that had come out of his chrysalis too soon.

The wild geese flew and flew, unceasingly. All day long they continued to torment Smirre. They were not moved to pity because Smirre was done up, fevered, and out of his head. They continued without a letup, although they understood that he hardly saw them, and that he jumped after their shadows.

When Smirre Fox sank down on a pile of dry leaves, weak and powerless and almost ready to give up the ghost, they stopped teasing him.

“Now you know, Mr. Fox, what happens to the one who dares to come near Akka of Kebnekaise!” they shouted in his ear; and with that they left him in peace.